Saturday, November 29, 2003

The US Through Foreign Eyes?

Ever since its English-website version debuted this year, I've been occasionally reading Al-Jazeera, one of the Arab world's leading independent news outlets. Well, it's sort of independent. In addition to imitating CNN with its "global" coverage, Al-Jazeera's also imitating NPR: Al-Jazeera was started by a $150 million loan from the ruling family of Qatar, where the network is located, and some reports have it that the family funds the network to the tune of an additional $100 million annually. Al-Jazeera reaches the Arab world by satellite (and is regularly preferred by up to 40% of Arab viewers, according to some estimates). Recently, the network's broadcasts were banned in Iraq by the United States, which claimed that the network was cooperating with Iraqi terrorists (Al-Jazeera calls them "resistance fighters," or even "anti-occupation activists") to stage televised attacks on American troops. Al-Jazeera's portrait of the United States -- its government, people, and life -- is relentlessly hostile and phobic. But if that's not surprising to you, something else I noticed might be. Let me show you what I mean by first quoting from Al-Jazeera's current (11/29/03) edition -- you'll see distaste and fear of the United States hanging on every participle:

From the Culture Section:
Item: "US Author Hailed by Germans" Thousands of Germans cheered . . . Michael Moore as he began his European tour . . . . "I live in a country in which it is almost a matter of national policy to keep people stupid. I am almost embarrassed to talk about it but I feel you are owed an explanation." . . . the best-selling author was far from embarrassed to tell a full house some unpleasant truths concerning the war in Iraq, poverty and violence in America and the 2000 presidential election. He urged Germans not to let their country become "like the US" and said Americans were waking up to the "lies" of the Republican administration . . . the author could barely utter a sentence without clapping, whistles of approval and applause. . . . . Germans attribute Moore's popularity to his mirroring of what is popular thinking in Europe, particularly after opposition grew in France and Germany to the US-led war in Iraq. . . . .

Item: "History... Another Victim of Occupation" No exhibition in the world could have rivaled the Mesopotamian artefacts [sic] held at Iraq's National Museum. . . . But all that changed within the space of a few terrible days after US forces occupied the Iraqi capital . . . The home of 170,000 artefacts was looted and smashed. . . . . While US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, joked that he did not think the museum had too many vases to steal . . . Questioning the minister about allegations that some US troops had encouraged looters to take some kind of wild revenge on the Baathist government, al-Jazairi said an ongoing investigation into just what happened would be completed within months. . . . .

Item: "German Tribute to Ali a Tearjerker" Boxing legend Muhammad Ali accepted a gong in a tribute at the prestigious Bambi awards ceremony in Germany, visibly moving some in the room to tears. The 61-year-old, who suffers from degenerative Parkinson's disease, picked up a special award late Thursday for his lifetime achievements. Ali, who started out as Cassius Clay, was world heavyweight boxing champion from 1964 to 1967 when he was stripped of his title for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. . . . .

Item: "Bahrainis Embrace Political Satire:" The crowd roared with laughter when actors on a makeshift stage poked fun at the royal family and politicians in Bahrain . . . . The organisers, [are] the leading Shia opposition group Al-Wefaq Islamic Society . . . The play also tackled other sensitive issues like rising unemployment and alleged corruption in Bahrain, a regional finance hub and the headquarters of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. . . .
From the Economics Section:
Item: "US Pets Get $31 Billion Pampering" The United States boasts of more domestic pets than humans and it is only natural that the holiday season spawn a veritable treasure trove of gift items . . . For those wanting to impress their pets, the Gucci goat hair dog bed comes for a cool $2,050. . . . Bruce Van Horn of the website petguru.com . . . says he places his hands on his dalmatian Goodboy and his cat Sarafina during his yoga session, so that they can reap the benefits of his meditation practice. . . . .

Item: "China and U.S. Spar Over Trade Duties" China has issued a warning to the United States that their warming bilateral ties could be seriously affected if Washington continued imposing discriminatory duties on Chinese goods. . . . Critics of the move accuse Bush of compromising its free trade credentials in favour of political interests ahead of the 2004 presidential election. At the heart of the dispute are US claims the [sic] undervalued Chinese yuan is giving China a trading edge that has undercut US manufacturers and caused Americans to lose jobs, a rationale independent economists have largely dismissed.

Item: "Iraq Oil Output Rising Despite Attacks" Iraq's crude oil production is rising despite resistance attacks on its energy infrastructure . . . Production in the northern oilfields around Kirkuk is crippled by resistance attacks . . . . .
From the Sci-Tech Section:
Item: "Global Warming Crisis Worsens" Fast-rising temperatures in 2003 are adding a new urgency to the problem of global warming . . . The gloomy picture painted by the UN Climate Change Convention (UNCCC) . . . came ahead of a fresh effort to breathe life into the sickly Kyoto Protocol. . . . anecdotal evidence and scientific data from several countries suggest [2003] will be the hottest year since record-keeping began. . . . The 188 parties to the UNCCC meet in Milan . . . to assess progress in addressing climate change. Topping the agenda will be the future of the Kyoto Protocol . . . that deals specifically with the emissions of carbon pollution blamed for global warming. The Protocol was badly hit when the United States, the world's biggest polluter, pulled out of it in March 2001 in one of President George Bush's first acts after taking office. . . .

Item: "Transatlantic Rivalry Spills Into Space" Space is the latest arena of rivalry between the United States and the European Union. And, the issue: a satellite navigation entity that will end the monopoly of the US' Global Positioning System (GPS). . . . The EU's Galileo [GPS] threatens US dominance in space . . . But the US is not happy. Secretary of State Colin Powell has reportedly sent missives to a dozen European Union countries to give up the programme. . . . [GPS] was developed in the ‘70s by the United States military . . . Washington has allowed the system to be used by other countries free of cost. But the overall control is with the Pentagon. . . . Galileo versus GPS is the latest in a recent list of strong disagreements between the EU and the US preceded by . . . the invasion of Iraq.
From the Arab World News Section:
Item: "Two Iraqi Sisters Found Dead" Bodies of two young Iraqi sisters have been discovered by US troops near Baquba . . . according to the occupation force. A US military source said on Friday that they informed Iraqi police and handed over the bodies. The source said both deaths appear to be civil murder cases. However, the brother of the girls had earlier said that US troops at Ibn Firnas airport . . shot Fatima and Azra, 15 and 12, on Thursday at midday as they were collecting wood . . . . .

Item: "US Army Report on Iraq Self-Critical" Washington's reluctance to declare US troops an occupying force stymied efforts to consolidate its hold over Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the invasion. . . . "commanders did not initially take measures available to occupying powers, such as imposing curfews, directing civilians to return to work, and controlling the local governments and populace," the evaluation report says. . . . the report said unidentified "higher officials" constrained the occupation effort . . .

Item: "Hearts and Minds: US Style" As American troops exit the former Presidential Palace complex in Tikrit, the last thing they see . . . is the Fourth Infantry Division motto: Strike First. . . . I asked my escort Specialist Jack Craig, a military policeman from Minnesota, how he correlated the "strike first" directive with the US . . . policy of attempting to win the "hearts and minds" of the local population. "Actually, I see 'hearts and minds' as a tactical doctrine. To me, it means that's where we should aim first," said Craig. "Shoot them in the body or in the head, but just make sure you shoot them first." . . . [A US civilian advisor says:] "One problem is that a lot of our soldiers are sh*t-scared and want to get out of here alive, no matter what that entails." . . . aggressive and violent behaviour on the part of individual soldiers are not the only contributors to the American alienation of the local people. . . .

Item: "US Arrests 41 Suspected Fighters" US troops have arrested 41 suspected anti-occupation activists, including a man believed to have helped foreign fighters infiltrate Iraq. US forces captured 37 resistance fighters in a cordon and search raid east of the hotspot city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, and three individuals suspected of an attack against the family of the city's police chief two weeks ago. . . .

Item: "Bush Visit Dismissed as Mere Stunt" . . . George Bush's stealthy visit to Iraq has been greeted with derision in the Arab world . . . In Iraq itself, many people termed it a cowardly swift stopover . . . Some said they would have preferred Bush to have had the courage to visit the country more openly and meet ordinary people. . . . "What good did his visit bring us? We want to see him and his troops leave Iraq at once. We want Saddam back!" piped in Hilal Muhayed, 16, as his teenage friends nodded in approval. . . . "Bush's secret visit to Baghdad opens presidential election season," said the Beirut-based Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, owned by Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. . . . In the Iranian capital Tehran, the country's Foreign Minister . . . said Bush's visit to Baghdad showed that Washington was afraid of the Iraqi people.
From the Global News Section:
Item: "Political Success Eludes US Muslims:" Dearborn, Michigan . . . boasts one of the largest populations of Arab Americans of any city in the country, the majority of them Muslims. Yet, Dearborn has never elected a Muslim representative to the US Congress. . . . In the history of the United States, no Muslim American has ever been elected to the US House of Representatives or the Senate . . . Dr Imad al-Din Ahmad, a Palestinian Muslim who ran for the US Senate in 1988, said Muslim immigrants often come from homelands "that arrest people for speaking out about political issues" . . . Jameel Johnson, the chief of staff for US Rep Gregory W Meeks, D-NY, and an African American Muslim, said many black Americans had difficulty reconciling voter participation with America's history of racism and political disenfranchisement. African Americans in the southern United States endured years of discrimination and violent efforts to bar them from the voting booth. The subsequent cynicism towards politics among black Muslims is a reflection of that nefarious legacy, Johnson said . . . Whether or not anti-Islamic discrimination accounts for the lack of Muslim Americans in Congress is unclear. However, Ahmad said that both religious intolerance and xenophobia have hindered their political evolution. . . ..

Item: "Struggle Over Indonesian Schools:" On his recent whirlwind visit to Jakarta, US president George Bush . . . pledged $157 million over six years to improve the country's school system. . . . Bush's move followed similar US attempts at introducing changes in the educational systems of a number of Muslim countries . . . since the 9/11 attacks. He appeared to be acting on the advice of his more hawkish advisers, who aim to replace a curriculum perceived as radical and anti-American with a more compliant alternative. . . . A recent report released by the Global Campaign for Education, an international coalition of development agencies, teachers' unions and community groups, looked at 22 rich countries and how much aid they provide to boost education in developing countries. The US scored 12 out of 100 points and was considered the least generous aid giver when its donations are measured as a proportional share of its national income. Development groups and the United Nations estimate that $5.6 billion in additional aid is still needed . . . "The extra $5.6 billion needed for education is one-fifth the amount Americans spend on pizza each year . . . " said Oliver Buston, a senior policy advisor for the development group Oxfam.
From the Special Reports Section:
Item: "Iraq Under Occupation" US and British occupation of Iraq is regarded as the re-emergence of the old colonialist practices of the western empires in some quarters. The real ambitions underlying the brutal onslaught are still highly questionable - and then there are the blatant lies over weapons of mass destruction originally used to justify the war. There were no great victory marches by the occupiers, nor were they thrown garlands of flowers and greeted in triumph. More US soldiers have died in Iraq since George Bush declared an end to the war on 1 May 2003 prompting the question: Will Iraq turn into a new Vietnam eventually bringing the US to its senses ... or perhaps to its knees?

Iraq's history, and along with it that of the Arab Muslim world, speaks of several similar encounters. In the past, enemies attacked from East and West before they were swallowed by the moving sands of the region, or forced to retreat, leaving behind a phoenix-like people who adore life and still accept to die for their freedom.

The escalating Iraqi resistance seems to be setting the stage for another act which might usher in a new Arab World or set the clock ticking for the end of yet another empire.
* * *


You can see why this monotony can get a tad irritating. For Al-Jazzy, reporting on "Culture" means regurgitating Michael Moore's mindless, Euro-pandering drivel as a fearless expose about the stupidity, violence, and mendacity inherent in American life. It means that the real reason for Muhammad Ali's fame is his opposition to the Vietnam War. "Culture" means speculating that the United States planned and desired the looting of Iraq's national museum and noting that an American official is a heartless Philistine. "Culture" means the Shia Al-Wefaq opposition group putting on a "Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland" show about the corruption of Bahrain by the U.S. Navy.

Al-Jazzy's reporting isn't confined to genteel (note to Al-Jazzy's editors: "genteel" doesn't mean "non-Jewish") cultural issues. The network also covers Economics, which means reporting how Americans (in addition to being as stupid as Michael Moore says we are) are fatuous pet-pamperers. I can just hear the shouting from a hundred Damascus barbershops -- "They spend millions on dogs and nothing, nothing on the starving Palestinians they murder every day via their Zionist lackeys!!!!" (Which isn't true at all. We spend lots of money on the Israelis). For the scribes in Qatar, "economics" means figuring out what unworthy, illegitimate, and deceitful motive the Bush Administration really has for starving all those Chinese television workers since everybody knows that cheap imports don't cause a loss of domestic manufacturing jobs. (I guess that's why no other country but our own stupid and bloodthirsty nation levies import tariffs). "Economics" means never passing up a chance to explain that the Iraqi thugs who're blowing limbs off their own people are really "anti-occupation activists." Adam Smith and Milton Friedman? Forget it -- Al-Jazeera's way over their heads when it comes to ekunumics.

It shouldn't be surprising that a news organization savvy enough to trace the veiled connection between Bush lying about Chinese television sets and American pet-owners murdering Palestinian children would be right on top of things when it comes to science and technology. Sure enough, Al-Jazeera has uncovered "anecdotal evidence" that the world will be seared by man-killing heat waves because the United States -- [Now pause, and then intone with sonorous voice: "The World's Biggest Polluter"] -- torpedoed the Kyoto protocol, mankind's only hope to avoid being as choked with smog as thick as . . . well . . . . smoke from ten thousand oil-well fires started by a deranged Arab dictator! Only that level of intelligence can see the evil behind sending "missives" against the freedom-loving peoples of the world in order to keep them (and the Chinese Army, which is funding the Galileo project) from having a GPS system free of control by the Satanic Pentagon, let alone understand why the whole GPS issue is connected to the invasion of peace-loving Iraq by the Stupid Third Infantry Division.

But perhaps the fault is ours. I mean, what else can one expect of a nation run by a coward who has to sneak into Baghdad because his advisors thinks Iraq is a dangerous country full of terrorists . . . uh, "anti-occupation activists," who only display RPG launchers as a sign of their commitment to peace? Of course such a coward would conspire to keep the Stupid Third Infantry Division from calling itself an "occupation force." Why, if the Stupid Third Infantry Division's commander had been given permission to get on a bullhorn and shout "Hey, we're not liberating you from anything -- our status is occupation force!" the US couldn't have conspired with the non-Iraqi, non-Arab, and non-Muslim thieves (I suspect the Swiss Mafia, myself) who swarmed into the National Museum under covering fire from our M1A1 tanks so that Donald Rumsfeld could make an ass of himself. It figures that a nation so depraved as to deserve Michael Moore's condemnation would send sh*t-scared, trigger-happy teenagers to murder Iraqi schoolgirls and provoke righteous "anti-occupation activism." That's why Al-Jazeera can treat the stupid joking of a soldier as a serious comment about what the GPS-guided, World's-Most-Polluting, Coward-Commanded, Army of Stupids is really up to.

Maybe we deserve to be judged by non-sequiturs and a double-standard or two. Maybe that's why Al-Jazzy realizes that Arab-American immigrants, fleeing from savage regimes which think the phrase "rights of man" isn't the Sharia and wouldn't care if it were, are naturally too frightened to participate in American politics because of Jim Crow. That's why my grandfather must never have voted and why he was terrified every time a car drove past his house at night -- he knew all about Jim Crow, and he'd come from Mussolini's Italy. Don't you see it? The connection's obvious! (Actually, Grandpa was a die-hard FDR man, but why should we let facts interfere with our narrative any more than Al-Jazeera lets facts interfere with its reporting?) That's why Muslims should band together against the xenophobia and racism that's turned Dearborn Michigan into a lilly-white Presbyterian country club and vote Muslim -- not Democratic, Republican or Eco-Libertarian, mind you, but Muslim,, so America can have elected officials in proportion to its Muslim population. (Actually, on second thought this report shows that Muslims are politically savvy enough to have caught on to American-style victim/identity politics. I wonder what their claim for reparations will be? Maybe they were forced into centuries of slave-trading by the same Jewish interests that are behind Joe Lieberman's run for the White House.) Anyhow, it's undoubtedly part of the same corruption behind the US's attempt to destroy the purity of Islamic youth by injecting the curricula of Indonesian madrassas with syphilitic "compliance." If that stupid coward Bush had his way, Indonesian children wouldn't learn how the polio vaccine was really invented by Hassan Ibn-Poliovaccine and then stolen by a Mossad agent codenamed "Jonas Salk." Why, Indonesian children wouldn't be able to watch Michael Moore documentaries about how stupid, violent, and sick Americans are! That's just more proof of America's evil -- we're trying to give Indonesia $157 million for education when everybody knows that's less money than we have. I can hear the shouting from every coffee shop in Amman: "They spend billions on pet meditation, and only hundreds of millions on Indonesian schoolchildren! Allah will curse them unless they spend more on corrupting our youth and subverting us with that Jonas-Salk story, more, much more!" Or is that Moore?

But I don't want to be too negative, so I should point out that Al-Jazeera isn't all doom-and-gloom. They report happy stories too. Like how a new day is dawning because the US Empire will be quickly brought to its knees by the same teenagers-with-RPGs strategy that's already obliterated Israel and restored the Palestinian homeland. Yes, the polluting, stupid, violent, and cowardly Bushites will be swallowed up by the wrath of the peaceful Iraqi people who adore life and so can't wait to move to Dearborn and be persecuted by its monolithic whiteness. According to Al-Jazzy, a new Arab world will come the only way it apparently can -- in a bath of blood accompanied by howls of righteous anger at the worthlessness of the United States.

* * *


Like I said, that's not really the surprising thing about Al-Jazeera's reporting. The surprising thing is how much that reporting is like our own media's view of things. It's remarkably similar -- from Sam Donaldson's explaining that whenever Americans act like stupid, tantrum-throwing children they vote Republican to Cokie Roberts explaining the real motive behind the latest "move" of the Bush administration. On Friday morning I listened to NPR's reporting of Bush's visit to Baghdad, and learned that it was a sneaky "stealth" visit whose planning was dominated by the administration's fear of terrorists and which irritated the Iraqis, who are suffering under the American occupation's inability to immediately provide them with the security and prosperity enjoyed in, say, Dearborn, Michigan. It was explained how Bush's real motive was to shamelessly primp his image for the 2004 elections. In fact, that's how just about every major news outlet's covering the visit. The same kind of coverage is given to all these stories -- America is dooming the world to a permanent Coppertone tan because we killed the Kyoto protocol . . . . our troops are trigger-happy civilian-killers . . . . our soldiers are "sh*t scared" and can't stand serving in Iraq because they only joined up to pay for college . . . . a quagmire like Vietnam . . . the end of American influence in the world . . . Americans are overfed, over-pampered nitwits who won't have given "enough" to the needy of the world until foreign aid equals 90% of our GDP . . . surreptitious meddling in other cultures . . . . the wonderful way of life that isn't American . . . .

I haven't read anything in Al-Jazzy that I haven't already learned from Dan, Sam, Cokie and the gang. Oh sure, Jazzy's a little more vibrant, it's anti-American tune more allegro than the New York Times' continually-whining adagio -- and at least Sam and Cokie seem a teeny bit sad when they remind us what sorry sons-of-bitches we all are. (Or is that schadenfreude? Sometimes it's hard to tell). But the message is basically the same -- if only the corrupt, polluting, and stupid Bushite Empire can be brought to its knees (by RPG-wielding thugs or "blue country" voters, it doesn't matter), a new day will dawn in which the air will sparkle, children will laugh, and we can all adore life and live free. That's it. I'm outta here . . . . . the news is on.

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